BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
This invention concerns a device for dialog between at least one operator of an aircraft and at least one system of the aircraft. This system includes the functions which are liable to be initiated by the dialog device, under the action of the operator, so that they can be executed.
In the context of this invention:
“execution of a function” means, in particular:
implementing a command to an element (engine, lighting, etc.) of the aircraft, or a particular action;
access to pages of information on a screen; and/or
access to additional information or actions without changing a page;
the system, e.g., a flight management device, may include “procedures” for navigation, communication, monitoring and/or flight management of the aircraft, and “procedures” for managing elements such as engines or lighting, or alarms of the aircraft.
The dialog is implemented via at least one window which is displayed on at least one screen, in general a screen on the flight deck, and which is of an “interactive” type. In the context of this invention, “interactive window” means a window which includes responsive objects (points, ranges, alphanumeric values, lists, menus, etc.) which are associated respectively with particular functions of the above-mentioned type, and which respond to the presence of a cursor. The cursor can be displaced by an appropriate device which can be actuated by an operator of the aircraft, in such a way that it can be displaced to a responsive object to designate or mark it. When a responsive object is designated, i.e., when the cursor is displaced to it, the responsive object is marked or highlighted, in particular by a change of appearance such as a change of color or increased brightness. The responsive object is then said to have an “object marker” or “focus.”
Confirmation (using an appropriate controllable device) of a responsive object which has such an object marker initiates the execution of the function which is associated with said responsive object.
2. Discussion of the Background
Various dialog devices which are capable of implementing the designation and confirmation of a responsive object of this type are known.
In particular, from Patent FR-2 677 149, a device for reviewing the lateral flight plan of an aerodyne is known. This known device includes a designation device which is fitted with a confirmation element, and which is connected to the processor of the flight management system of the aerodyne in such a way as to obtain, on the screen of this system, as well as the geographical representation of the flight plan which the pilot initially selected:
a responsive field associated with each point of the screen;
dynamic function ranges which are used to compose menus; the function which is assigned to each of these ranges can vary from one menu to another and is indicated on the display corresponding to this range; and
a luminous index, the movements of which on the screen are controlled by the pilot acting on the designation device, in such a way that the index can be displaced to a range or a responsive field;
the function which corresponds to this range is activated, or a point of the area is selected, by the pilot acting on the confirmation element.
Additionally, from Patent FR-2 743 921, a device, which is part of a global control system of an airplane, to aid in aerial navigation of the airplane, is known. This system includes, in particular, a Flight Management System (FMS) and interfaces for dialog with the pilot, including, among other things, information display screens for navigation and piloting, and a display and data entry console of the Multipurpose Control Display Unit (MCDU) type. This MCDU console includes a keyboard which is exclusively intended for data entry, a screen and devices to make it possible to select fields which are displayed on the screen and to activate the selected field to initiate operations which are related to what is displayed. These selection and activation devices make it possible to:
displace a cursor in a menu which is displayed on the screen, to select a field which this menu offers; for instance, the brightness of this field increases when the cursor is displaced to this field; and
to activate a selected field.
Functions which are initiated in this way (designation of the associated responsive object and confirmation) by the dialog device are, in general, functions which were planned in advance and carried out at a particular moment during, before or after the flight.
However, it may happen during a flight (or even before or after the flight) that the crew of an aircraft is obliged, sometimes urgently, to carry out particular actions, i.e., is obliged to initiate execution of particular functions, which cannot be anticipated. This is in general the case when the pilot is alerted by various systems of the aircraft to a change in the operational situation of the aircraft, requiring him or her to deal with it urgently, e.g., dealing with a failure or generating a response to an Air Traffic Control (ATC) message.
Now, at the moment when such a request to deal with something occurs, it is possible that the pilot is in the course of initiating execution of another function, which may be habitual or not, and the cursor has been displaced to the corresponding window for this purpose.
In such a situation, with the dialog devices which are disclosed by the above-mentioned Patents FR-2 677 149 and FR-2-743 921, the pilot has two options:
either he or she interrupts the function which is in the course of execution and displaces the cursor to the window which contains the new function (e.g., an emergency function), to designate and confirm the responsive object which is associated with this new function;
or he or she waits, before initiating the new function, until the function in progress has been fully executed.
Of course, neither of these possibilities is satisfactory.
It should be noted that, in the case of a dialog device such as is described in document U.S. Pat. No. 6,112,141, containing two cursor displacement devices each of which is capable of controlling one cursor, and which are intended for two different operators (e.g., the pilot and copilot of the aircraft), the emergency function can be initiated by the operator who is not controlling the function which is being executed, obviously in the case that this operator is not controlling any function.
The document U.S. Pat. No. 6,112,141 describes a flight deck which contains, in particular, multiple screens, a multi-functional control unit, two keyboards (or voice-operated systems) which are exclusively intended for data entry, and a dialog interface. This dialog interface includes at least two identical cursor control devices, in the form of control balls or spheres, one of which is intended for the pilot and the other for the copilot. These control balls make it possible to displace the corresponding cursors continuously on the screens, to designate responsive objects. Additionally, in the case that two different cursors designate the same responsive object, the command from the cursor which did the designation first has precedence, because no priority is provided between the different operators.
However, in the case that the two operators are both in the course of initiating execution of functions using their dialog devices, or in the case that one of the two is occupied on other tasks, if an emergency function has to be executed, the situation is the same as before, with the same dilemma, i.e., whether to interrupt the function in progress and initiate execution of the emergency function, or to terminate the function in progress before initiating execution of the emergency function.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
This invention concerns a dialog device which is of the type described above, and which makes it possible to overcome the above-mentioned drawbacks. For this purpose, according to the invention, the device for dialog between at least one operator of an aircraft and at least one system of the aircraft, the dialog device including:
at least one screen which is capable of displaying at least two responsive objects on at least two interactive windows, each of said responsive objects being associated with one of multiple functions, the functions being capable of being initiated by the dialog device under the action of the operator so that they are executed; and
at least one cursor control device, which is arranged so that it can be actuated by the operator, and which includes at least:
one actuatable displacement means, which is capable of displacing a cursor on a window, to designate a responsive object by making a main object marker appear; and
one actuatable confirmation means, which is capable of confirming a responsive object which has the main object marker, to initiate execution of the function which is associated with the responsive object,
is notable in that it includes, additionally, auxiliary control means which are arranged in such a way that they can also be actuated by the operator, which are intended to control an auxiliary object marker without affecting control of the main object marker, and which include:
at least one actuatable displacement element, making it possible to cause a discrete displacement of the auxiliary object marker, responsive object by responsive object, on an interactive window; and
at least one actuatable confirmation element, making it possible to confirm a responsive object which has the auxiliary object marker, to initiate execution of the function which is associated with the responsive object.
Thus, when, during execution of a particular function (which has been controlled in the usual way by designating and confirming a responsive object using the cursor control device controlling the cursor), another function, in particular an emergency function, must be executed, the operator (who has access to both of the cursor control device and the auxiliary control means), can initiate execution of this other function using the auxiliary control means, since the auxiliary object marker which is controlled by them does not affect the control which is carried out using the cursor and the main object marker.
Consequently, the second function (e.g., an emergency function) can be executed without having to interrupt the execution in progress of the first function (e.g., a usual function which was planned in advance), the two executions being controlled by the same operator.
Additionally, since the auxiliary object marker is subjected to discrete displacement, it being possible to carry out such a discrete displacement in a precise manner in any situation, in particular while the aircraft is being shaken, execution of an emergency function can, thanks to the invention, be carried out whatever the phase and/or conditions of flight, and in particular when the aircraft is in an area of turbulence.
In a preferred embodiment, the auxiliary control means are fitted in a separate, specific box, which has keys, and the displacement and confirmation elements (to control the auxiliary object marker) are the keys of this specific box.
In another embodiment, the elements for displacement and confirmation of the auxiliary control means (to control the auxiliary object marker) can be the keys of an ordinary keyboard which enables the operator to enter data.
Additionally, in a particular variant, to reduce the space requirement, the cursor control device is not an independent device, but is also formed by some of the keys of the keyboard. Thus, in this case, the (only) keyboard is used simultaneously:
to enter data into the system;
to control the auxiliary object marker; and
to control the cursor (i.e., the main object marker).
To do this, different combinations of keys of the keyboard are simply used to carry out, respectively, the different tasks.
Additionally, to facilitate the designation of responsive objects, in an advantageous embodiment, the responsive objects are arranged in at least one direction which is defined with respect to the interactive window, e.g., vertically or horizontally, and the auxiliary control means include at least one displacement element which corresponds to a direction arrow which makes it possible to displace the auxiliary object marker from one responsive object to another, responsive object after responsive object, following the defined direction in a certain way.
Additionally and advantageously, the cursor control device and the auxiliary control means are formed such that control of the main object marker by the cursor control device has priority over control of the auxiliary object marker by the auxiliary control means when the two markers, main and auxiliary, are on the same interactive window.
In a first embodiment, the cursor control device causes, in the usual way, a continuous displacement of the cursor on the interactive window, whereas, in a second embodiment, the cursor control device causes, also in the usual way, a discrete displacement of the cursor on the interactive window.
Additionally, to provide great flexibility of use and increase the operator's comfort in the execution of his or her tasks, the dialog device according to the invention can include two cursor control devices which are arranged in such a way that they can both be actuated by the operator, one of the cursor control devices causing continuous displacement of the cursor and the other causing discrete displacement of the cursor.
Additionally and advantageously, the cursor control device includes means for displacing the cursor from window to window and, when the dialog device includes at least two screens, a means for displacing the cursor from screen to screen. Preferably, each screen includes multiple fields, and displacement of the cursor from field to field is implemented in such a way that displacement from a first window to a second window is obtained indirectly by displacement of the cursor from the last field of the first window to the first field of the second window.
In a preferred embodiment, the dialog device includes two cursor control devices and two sets of auxiliary control means, one cursor control device and one set of auxiliary control means being intended for the pilot of the aircraft, and the other cursor control device and the other set of auxiliary control means being intended for the copilot of the aircraft.
This invention also concerns an aircraft system as above, which is notable in that it includes the dialog device according to the invention, to allow a dialog with an operator, in particular a pilot, of the aircraft.